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Bravely Default (3DS) artwork

Bravely Default (3DS) review

"Borrow from the past and the future to make the most of the present."

Bravely Default is named after its unique battle system which allows each character to either “Brave”, borrowing up to three future turns to perform four actions in one turn or to “Default” which is much like defending, except that you save that turn to be used later. This adds a new dimension of strategy where you’re either borrowing against your future or from your past to make the most of the present.

In a way, Bravely Default describes the game itself. It feels like a classic RPG from the Super Nintendo or PlayStation era, with an engaging and likeable characters, while also taking advantage of modern technology such as Internet connectivity and gorgeous 3D visuals.

Bravely Default begins with an interesting cutscene involving an AR card that makes you feel like one of the characters is in the room with you and you’re being pulled (forcibly) into the world of the game. Next, you’re treated to a gorgeous FMV that introduces the four main characters that you’ll come to know and love.

Agnes is the Vestal of Wind, in other words, the priestess responsible for the wind crystal. The four crystals (Wind, Water, Fire and Earth) are fading and she sets out to discover why. She’s a solitary character who has never had to relate to people in the outside world, so watching her learn to trust and love her new friends is a joy. It is her mission that drives the story, much like Yuna’s pilgrimage from Final Fantasy X. She is joined by Tiz, a young farm boy whose village is destroyed by a massive cataclysm, Edea, a young warrior who turns traitor against her people when she witnesses their atrocities, and Ringabel. Ringabel is perhaps the most interesting character with the most unique take on amnesia ever seen in a game – he has no memory of his past, but he carries a journal which contains information about their future. He joins the party because of his future knowledge, and his future knowledge is often the only way the party knows what to do next.

This party of four start off as familiar archetypes (priest, farm boy, warrior, rogue), but they grow and evolve into truly unique characters. They set out to restore the crystals and save the world, while also fighting against enemies that cause problems in each of the lands they visit. And even though the characters will argue and bicker, you can see that they truly become an inseparable team. After forcing my way through some of the recent efforts by Square-Enix, these characters almost make me forget the bland characterisation of Lightning and friends from the Final Fantasy XIII series.

Bravely Default makes use of a job system much like Final Fantasy V or Tactics. Defeating certain bosses will unlock a job asterisk, which you can then level up. You can make your party what you need for any scenario with a collection of warrior-types, mages and others. Each job will grant the character new abilities and buffs which can be equipped. There are a multitude of combinations. One of my favourite setups right now involves abilities from a few different jobs: a ninja skill which gives one guaranteed evasion – a skill that raises stats for every successful evasion – a skill that automatically counter attacks after evading – and a skill that amplifies the damage of the counter attack. With this set up on all four characters, you end up with a party that cannot be defeated easily.

Bravely Default makes use of all the gimmicky features of the 3DS in a way that is never intrusive or pointless. Every location looks absolutely stunning with the 3D slider turned up – the hand drawn visuals (which are reminiscent of Final Fantasy IX) are given a level of depth that is never a strain on the eyes. Each city has a unique feel to it. The first city you visit is built on a mountain and if you don’t touch the controls for a few seconds, the camera pulls back allowing you to see the entire city in all its beauty. Incidentally, this feature is especially useful when you encounter a fork in the path during the many caverns and temples you will find yourself in.

This is one of the first single player RPGs that makes use of the Internet and other people playing the game. If you have any friends that are also playing through the game, you can link up with them to share abilities. If your friends have levelled up different jobs for one of the characters, you can make use of them. Because there are so many jobs, this means you don’t need to spend time grinding for a specific skill if you need it – just see if your friend already has it.

In battle, before you unleash a special move or powerful attack, take a moment to choose “Send”. This will save the move and upload it, allowing friends and randoms (through the Internet or StreetPass) to use it. I can’t count the times I’ve been saved by a powerful move that my friend (who has always been about 15-20 hours ahead of me) has sent out. I try to do the same for others. And so even though we all play alone, we help out others who are at different stages of the same quest. Again, this fits the theme Bravely Default is going for – a mash up of the past and future borrowing from each other to make the most of the present.

There is a little side game which is similar to those Smartphone town building games like Simpsons Tapped Out, but without all the micro transactions. Tiz is tasked with rebuilding his village. Every day, you can add 3 or 4 random people through the Internet, and StreetPass adds even more. These people can then be set to work on building shops and clearing debris. Each task takes time, but with more people you can reduce that time. This rewards you with items on a regular basis, and allows you to purchase items and equipment from any save point.

Bravely Default is possibly the best RPG I’ve experienced since Final Fantasy X. It makes me recall the best RPGs of the past while giving me hope for the future. It has been so long since I’ve caught myself humming video game music. It has been so long since I’ve been hooked on an RPG’s story. My friend keeps telling me to catch up so we can talk about events in my future and his past. I have enjoyed every twist and turn of the plot, and even predicted one of the biggest twists but still don’t comprehend the full meaning behind it.

I have not finished Bravely Default yet. I am about 40 hours in. I know enough of the past to recommend it wholeheartedly while at the same time I anticipate the future. We are all at different points in this quest, but it is the same quest. When you begin your quest, I will help you in any way I can, like I was helped by those who went before me.

You may walk alone, but you are never alone. You simply exist in the present, and the past and future are not so far away. Know when to Brave and when to Default.

jerec's avatar
Community review by jerec (January 06, 2014)

On very rare occasions, Jerec finds a game that inspires him to write stuff about. The rest of the time he just hangs around being sarcastic.

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If you enjoyed this Bravely Default review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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honestgamer posted January 06, 2014:

This is a terrific review that reaffirms my decision to put it on my "games that I want to buy soon" short list. It sounds like a JRPG that is not to be missed. I liked your references to Final Fantasy X. You had a good way of giving me a feel for the dynamic of actually playing the game, rather than providing just a bland summary of game functions. I liked that quite a bit. It's nice seeing another review from you, and like you, I hope it won't be the last that we see in 2014. Thanks for submitting it!
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Suskie posted January 07, 2014:

I've actually spent more time with the demo for this game than for any other single-player demo I can ever recall. It'll be a day-one purchase for me, for sure. I absolutely love the battle system, and hearing that the story and characters are great is reassuring, because the demo doesn't do a very good job of contextualizing them.

So thanks for writing this, and it's good to see you back in action! One question: The demo seems to put a big emphasis on StreetPass functionality, which I have no use for, since I live in Amish country. Will it significantly hurt my experience if I never use it?

I'm gonna have a pretty major conflict in February, by the way, since this game releases in North America the same week as Lightning ReturHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
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jerec posted January 07, 2014:

Thanks for the feedback!

Suskie, the StreetPass gives you some extra villagers for your town and more moves, but not having it won't impact you too much. You can connect to the Internet once per day in game and usually pick up 3-4 random people. I get a fair few streetpasses, but Bravely Default players are pretty rare anyway. I had a hell of a job tracking down a copy of this game.

I haven't actually tried the demo because I only heard about the game about 2 days before it released, so I didn't bother, but I've been hearing it's quite different with fetch quests and stuff (there's none of that in the main game).

Oh yeah, I'll definitely be picking up Lightning Returns on Day 1. Or when it's in the bargain bin... 2 months?
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honestgamer posted January 07, 2014:

Apparently, at least in the demo, there's an exploit of sorts that you can use to get StreetPass villagers, even if you don't actually live in a populated area (something that holds true for me). The cheat is posted at IGN and elsewhere. Maybe not ideal, but it could help solve that issue if it really felt like one. I'll probably just play it straight and not worry much about the StreetPass side of things, though, assuming I get the game as planned. I will likely also wind up playing it well after I buy it, as seems to be my mode of operation... but maybe I'll surprise myself. Jerec did sell this one quite convincingly!
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Suskie posted January 07, 2014:

Yeah, I've heard that the demo is actually way worse than the actual game, which is good to hear since I loved the demo. I wouldn't have minded just running quests like this given how much fun the battle system is.

It did seem to me like it takes FOREVER to restore the town if you don't use StreetPass, but I didn't pay too much attention to the feature anyway, so whatever.
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jerec posted January 07, 2014:

Nintendo has set up these relay points, which are actually quite easy to spoof with Linux. I've got a Raspberry Pi set up as a HomePass machine which broadcasts an SSID and Mac address of one Relay Station and changes to another, so I can potentially get unlimited hits.

You should be able to find some instructions on google and set it up if you're good with computers.
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overdrive posted January 07, 2014:

Damn, great review. I loved the conclusion of it. This is a game I'll have to buy at some point. Joining about half a dozen other 3DS titles I'd consider 100% essential.

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